NORTH CANTON, Ohio—What's in a name? In Seco Machine Inc.'s case, not quite enough.
That happens when a company is multifaceted, versatile and open to expanding further.
Seco has built a strong business as a contract machining and manufacturer of molded urethane components. Its capabilities include mold making, milling, turning and grinding. The firm's other services include production sawing, warehousing, heat treatments, light assembly, coatings and specialty packaging.
It machines a wide range of products, such as axle end caps, backing rings, bearing cones, plugs, center pins, side bearings, yoke bushings and others.
Making polyurethane-molded products, especially those used in the railroad industry, where it focuses heavily on suspension and wear reduction products, is what sets it apart from its competition, officials at the firm said.
Now the North Canton-based company is looking to expand its production base—especially in the industrial sector—and the size of its operation. The firm's capabilities go beyond the rail industry, Marketing Director Anne Kocher said, which is why it is looking into other markets.
"We feel that urethane has a natural place in the industrial segment where the end user needs the high performance and durability that urethane parts provide," said Jon Kaufman, a design engineer for Seco. "Urethane can be custom formulated to target specific physical properties that the end user would need in many applications."
Seco, which was purchased by Pittsburgh-based component maker A. Stucki Co. in 2009, has been producing urethane products at a factory owned by its parent company in Monterrey, Mexico, since 2004, Kaufman said. Before then it subcontracted production of the parts.
"The plant had space and the people available to do the work, so it worked out very well for us," he said during an interview that included several other company officials at the North Canton facility.
A natural fit
Stucki pioneered the use of urethane components in the railroad industry in the 1960s and in the 1990s Seco became a subcontractor of the company, primarily supplying components used for freight cars and trains.
It was a natural fit for Seco, which employs about 52 at its North Canton plant, according to Kocher. "The rich Stucki history naturally justifies a niche market in our core business, the rail industry."
Seco began pulling some production from the Mexican facility in mid-2012 and producing the components at its North Canton plant, which spans about 60,000 square feet, said Nicholas Ergon, Seco's Urethane Division operations manager.
"We have a strong team of engineers at our facility and the expertise to make high quality products for our customers anywhere," he said. "So more components are made here now, although we still make some at our Mexican plant. We ship products globally—China, Russia, India … everywhere."
James Kennedy, Stucki vice president of engineering, estimates 75 percent of Seco's offerings are manufactured at the Ohio site with the rest made in Mexico.
In terms of Seco's tooling and molding capabilities, Kaufman said the contract manufacturer relies on the latest advancements in CNC machining technology "to create very complicated molds from a 3D model the customer can send us or one we can create ourselves from a 2D drawing.
"We have the ability to laser scan a physical part and create a 3D model to make the mold, which really helps us streamline the reverse engineering process. Our state-of-the-art five-axis mill can machine molds with minimizing the amount of setups needed so we can produce molds faster and with tighter tolerances and better precision."
Kocher said Seco intends to expand the company's reach and is looking at other markets where it can grow. It is exploring ways to add to the size of its production facility and hopes to do both within the not-too-distant future. The firm has its sights set on the industrial market where specialized high-performance prod¬- ucts are needed, he said.
Seco, which recently received its ISO 9001:2008 certification, focuses on highly engineered products rather than commodity parts, Kennedy said. While it presently makes Stucki's line of suspension and wear reduction products, he said the company's goal is to create lines of components.
He said Seco constantly is adding machinery and other equipment to upgrade and improve its operation.
The company can provide parts with "outstanding abrasion resistance, high tear strength, fatigue resistance or any other physical property the application calls for," Kaufman said.
"We have the ability to bond the urethane to other urethane material and also to metal and composite materials. There is no limiting factor on the size and wall thickness of the urethane parts we can produce unlike injection molded parts."
Kennedy said the company can come up with a part that is durable and will meet the demands of many industrial applications. The value Seco brings to its customers is that it can handle the entire development and manufacturing of a part, according to Kaufman.
"From research and development all the way to finishing and handling the part, we will do all the work that is needed for the customer," he said. "We can create custom tests in our research and development lab that can stimulate the application and test suitable materials for the part."
Because of its expertise in designing parts for the rail industry, he said the firm has the experience to select the right materials for numerous applications and can control all aspects of the design process, which means customers do not have to be experts on material science and urethanes.
Seco's advanced tooling design process and CNC machining will give a customer a mold quickly and for a fraction of the cost of a high pressure injection tool, Kaufman said.
"We can even make prototype molds out of various materials to pour rapid prototype parts for the customer to observe and approve," he said. "Having a machine shop also allows us to produce any metal or composite components that would be included in a light assembly or bonded to the urethane. All finishing, gate grinding and machining on the final part will be provided as well."